River Birch 'Heritage'

Betula nigra

Family: Betulaceae (beh-tyoo-LAY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Betula (BET-yoo-luh) (Info)
Species: nigra (NY-gruh) (Info)
Cultivar: Heritage
Additional cultivar information:(PP4409, aka Cully)
Hybridized by Cully
Registered or introduced: 1978



Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Where to Grow:

Grow outdoors year-round


over 40 ft. (12 m)


30-40 ft. (9-12 m)

over 40 ft. (12 m)


USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)

USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)

USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Sun Exposure:

Full Sun



Bloom Color:

Pale Yellow

Chartreuse (Yellow-Green)

Pale Green

Bloom Time:

Mid Spring


Grown for foliage


Provides winter interest

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:

Patent expired

Propagation Methods:

From semi-hardwood cuttings

By simple layering

Seed Collecting:

N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:


Savannah, Georgia

Champaign, Illinois

Glen Ellyn, Illinois

West Friendship, Maryland

Kasota, Minnesota

Middletown, New York

Franklin, Ohio

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Downingtown, Pennsylvania

Schwenksville, Pennsylvania

Wynnewood, Pennsylvania

Columbia, South Carolina

Longview, Texas

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Dec 10, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

A pretty tree, but tremendously overplanted in the eastern US. Heritage---the cultivar name is 'Cully'---is supposed to have lighter bark color than the species, though I see little difference. But it also lacks the lovely weeping habit of the species.

For decades, it has been promoted as a borer-resistant replacement for our native paper birch, which is susceptible to bronze birch borer and short-lived. And it is longer-lived and more heat tolerant than paper birch.

But river birch has aggressive, competitive roots like a maple, which makes it difficult to garden under. Worse, it's a dirty tree that drops leaves and small branches continually, almost like a weeping willow. I often see it planted too close to buildings, where it quickly outgrows its space---it... read more


On Dec 3, 2013, Rickwebb from Downingtown, PA wrote:

A certain Mr Cully took buds from a special River Birch, with permission from a homeowner, in southwest Illinois and propagated them. I met him once in 1975 as he taught Dr Mike Dirr's woody plant class one time. Wonderful bark! I planted two in my front yard in se PA as 10 ft B&B multitrunked trees and they grew about 2 ft/yr to about 35 ft high from 2002 to 2012. Like the mother species, they do drop a lot of dead twigs much of the year and some leaves in summer.


On Jun 10, 2011, Kelly333 from Longview, TX wrote:

I did love this tree until borers got into it last year. I love the look of the tree, and the peeling bark.


On Aug 1, 2009, Joan from Belfield, ND (Zone 4a) wrote:

Editor's Note

Plant Patent number 4409 has expired


On Jan 13, 2009, catcollins from West Friendship, MD (Zone 6b) wrote:

Beautiful tree that provides dappled shade to underplantings. A backdrop of evergreens will really show off the bark in winter. Very fast growing. It doesn't pay to spend a fortune on large 12' trees (like I did) - buy the small 6 footers and within 3 years you won't be able to tell the difference! We only water during prolonged drought.

Our neighbor lost their paper birches 3 years ago to borer. No problems with our 5 Heritage. Cicadas, however, inflict very serious damage.


On Oct 25, 2006, Fleurs from Columbia, SC wrote:

Limbing up the tree to head height and not allowing downward branches to remain allows the gorgeous bark to show year-round. Oh, okay, and allows for underplanting, too!

Love the tree's dappled shade, the bark's shaggy, gorgeous colors, and the way leaves flutter in the wind, not to mention the lack of mess in Fall when the smallish leaves drop. What's not to love about this beauty?


On Jan 4, 2005, smiln32 from Oklahoma City, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

This cultivar grows best in full sun to partial shade and in soil that is relatively moist. It does not tolerate drought conditions at all. Bark is very attractive - both in coloration, which is lighter than other cultivars and in that it peels and scrolls. The tree shape is mostly oval and foliage is not particularly dense. It is native to the U.S. Usually the tree produces multiple trunks. Great specimen tree.